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Extension > Source - Winter 2009 > Through the years: Families still turn to the U

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Through the years: Families still turn to the U

Family photos over the years

For answers to questions ranging from budgeting to gardening, families have turned to Extension for help.

Extension resources remain modern, relevant

For decades Minnesota families have looked to the University for answers to their more pressing questions. In the 1920s, they struggled to feed and clothe children on severely limited budgets. In the 1940s, they learned to grow victory gardens to produce balanced meals with limited resources. And in the 1990s, some battled teen drug and alcohol issues.

Today, the challenges facing Minnesota families continue to multiply, due in part to the economic downturn and higher prices for food, fuel and housing.

"Our goal is to prepare families to make informed decisions that lead to better health and better well-being," says Karen Shirer, Extension associate dean for family development. "As Minnesota becomes more diverse, our programs cannot be 'one size fits all.' We engage diverse families in terms of culture and ethnicity, income, stage in the life cycle and family makeup."

The way in which Extension delivers information to families has seen tremendous change through the years. What began as a small staff of home-demonstration agents in 1912 has grown to include web-based resources, key partnerships with state agencies, and training to help other non-university educators reach as many citizens as possible.

Through personal financial education programs like Dollar Works 2, for example, Extension educators teach money management topics ranging from managing debt to saving and investing. Some 100 agencies partner with Extension annually to provide Minnesotans with training in family resource management.

"True to our land-grant mission, we're bringing the University to the people who might not have access," Shirer says.

For more information on Extension's Family Development programs, visit

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